Article by Halima Mudogo, CBC Nakuru
The Bible gives us a solid theology on suffering. It teaches us to believe in the providence of God, trusting that He will always be for our good. And this truth applies even when his hand deals us the bitter providence of pain, loss and suffering. Even then, we know that God works all things for His glory and for our ultimate and highest good (Romans 8:28). But despite knowing the theology behind pain, grief and suffering, dealing with their practical implications never gets easier.
Indulge me therefore to say the following, first to those who are grieving, and then to those who around them:
To The Grieving
- It is okay to feel and process the pain
Grief is messy and, as the saying goes, pain does demand to be felt. We do ourselves, and others, injustice when we refuse to acknowledge the heavy emotions that come with losing someone, or something, with which a bond or affection had developed. There is nothing un-Christian about the heaviness of heart and the tears that flood our eyes when dealing with loss. The Psalms are full of model expressions for such times.
Consider what the psalmist says in chapter 6:2-3, 6:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long
“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears
In Psalm 42:3 we read where the Psalmist says that his tears had been his food day and night. Let’s also consider what may be considered as the saddest Psalm in the bible: Psalm 88. There, in verse 6, the Psalmist laments that God had put him in the lowest pit; in the darkest depths.
This is the reality of the emotions the Psalmist was experiencing. They were not denied or suppressed but were expressed in Godly hope.
- Acknowledge that life, as you knew it, has changed
Grief has a way of shaking us out of our perceived comfort. It is like having a rug you are standing on being swept off your feet. You lose your balance. Straightforward tasks may now be challenging to accomplish. Previously manageable challenges will seem insurmountable, and you may be more fragile than you would like to be. These are characteristic of the days immediately following your loss.
In the long run, however, a new reality has to be embraced as life goes back to “normalcy”. But as life hurries by, the loss leaves a scar, a permanent scar, that always seem to remind you of that loss. It may get better, it often does, but it will remain etched like a stubborn stain, and life as you knew it will not be the same.
There is God’s wisdom hidden in his children’s experiences of pain. It may seem ironic to say this but there is beauty hidden in our loss. We are so inclined to make safe spaces for ourselves on earth. We create these classic bubbles, live in them like this world is all that matters, then the pain comes and jolts us back to reality. It reminds us that this world is broken. That it is not ideal. That it is transient, passing by as quickly as vapor in the wind. Nothing has quite the power to remind us of these realities as grief does.
And so yes, life will not be the same. And it’s a good thing! We get, by God’s grace, to behold His realities beyond this transient existence.
- You will feel alone but God is so near
Psalm 88:18 says:
“You have taken from me friend and neighbor,
darkness is my closest friend.
Grief, because of the fragility and vulnerability it carries, brings with it an aspect of neediness. The inclination is therefore to long for someone or something that can act as a crutch to get by until it occurs to you that no one and nothing can pick you out of the dark hole you are in. People may want to love on you but may not exactly know how to. And even those who love well do not have the capacity to fill the heart with warmth and belonging in all the ways that only the Lord can. So, even as you remain grateful for the fellowship of God’s people, look to Christ and and say with the psalmist:
“The Lord is my strength and shield, in Him my heart trusts and I am helped (Psalm28:7)
You are standing on solid ground and the Lord is near:
“truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2
- Grieve with hope
The Christian life may sound like an oxymoron, to say the least. Amidst all his affliction, Paul manages to put this trademark upon his life: “sorrowful yet always rejoicing”. We have such weighty reasons to keep our hope alive that no weight of affliction can take away. If the object of our faith rests upon Christ our savior: His work and His promises, then we know without a doubt that nothing can separate us from His love and His promise to get us safely home, to wipe away every tear from our eyes, and to bring us safely home to Himself where there will be no more death nor sorrow nor crying neither shall there be any more pain. If this reality is alive in the heart, then we should grieve with hope, allowing our pain to remind us that there is no lasting city here but we are only passing by in a world full of grief as a result of sin. But God will, and is making, all things new (Rev. 21:5). He will fulfill His promises. Therefore, we do not mourn like those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
Through Christ’s satisfactory work on the cross, the tears of every true saint, even those which rob them of their breath, have a safe place to land.
- Rejoice at the fruit of affliction
I am certainly better for every single affliction I have been through in my life. And by better I mean that I certainly see these verses in greater light with each passing affliction:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
There is a steadfastness that is only built by affliction and we are all the more better for it.
To those around the grieving
- Be present
I’ve always wondered whether God would have commended Job’s friends for just sitting with him in silence as he suffered. They certainly were doing a noble thing by just being present. They only did that which was worthy of the LORD’s rebuke when they ventured to theologically analyze Job’s suffering.
It is an explicit command from the Lord for us to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). We hurt one another when we are indifferent to each other’s joys and pains in the local church. In the local church, we are called to be brothers and sisters in the Lord. And this calling has very weighty implications on how we ought to relate one to another.
Loving each other is the business that Christ left us to do on this earth:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
“Little children, let us love not in word and speech, but in action and truth And by this we will know that we belong to the truth, and will assure our hearts in His presence. 1John 3:17-18
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.this is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
It is the Christian calling to love one another that reminds us that it easier to love too little! We are naturally not willing to be inconvenienced. But love in action involves inconvenience. It is costly. But it is rewarding since we get to play a part in the lives of others, especially during their pain and suffering.
- Pray for them
“No man can do me a greater kindness in this world, than to pray for me”Charles Spurgeon
Pray Ephesians 3:16-17 for your grieving brethren:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Pray especially for those with personalities that are more prone to depression and other mental health challenges that the Joy of the Lord would be their strength more than ever before. Can you be a Christian and be depressed? Indeed yes! Even the man after God’s own heart had to cry aloud, and that very often: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me! Pray that they may not sink under the weight of affliction. Is not prayer a means through which God works this promise? That his own will not sink? Then pray for one another!
To the grieving, it may be that you feel like one who is in a valley where darkness surrounds. You cannot see the golden gates, though they are very near. Well, but your hope shall not be destroyed because it is clouded. You can say with C.H Spurgeon: “Lord, will you destroy my hope because it is dim?” No, that He will not!
To those around the grieving, your practical presence and prayers for them will go a long way! May God fasten the day when we will bid all our pain, sorrows and griefs the much longed for goodbye! Even now, come Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20). Amen.